“I Had a Moral Obligation to Step Up.”

USA gold medalist Tommie Smith and fellow bronze medal countryman John Carlos courageously raised their fists in a black power salute on the winners podium at the 1968 Olympics to express their solidarity for the Civil Rights movement and to protest the racial injustices of the United States. The moment and the photos became iconic. Today, a counselor at Palm Springs High School in California, John Carlos speaks about that moment, the aftermath and his feelings on it today.

When he and Smith struck their pose, Carlos feared the worst. Look at the picture and you’ll see that while Smith’s arm is raised long and erect, Carlos has his slightly bent at the elbow. “I wanted to make sure, in case someone rushed us, I could throw down a hammer punch,” he writes. “We had just received so many threats leading up to that point, I refused to be defenceless at that moment of truth.”

How many of us would have the courage?

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